Singularity University has spawned a group of start-ups with the ambitious goal of impacting one billion people in ten years. Big Think contributor Michael Raymond del Castillo is writing profiles about this group of entrepreneurs who are looking to change the world through accelerating technology team projects. Each project is centered around a major issue like global health, poverty, energy, education, security, or space, and these are known collectively as the “10^9+ Projects."
Last week we looked at, Matternet, a project that was one of several tasked to improve the lives of a billion humans within the next ten years. This week we will see how another team, PrimerLife, using Artificial Intelligence and your personal genome to create a better you.
The USB stick in your hand contains a zip file with your genome on it. You insert the drive into the side of your computer and click the button on the screen that says “Upload,” prompting an artificial intelligence engine to “ponder” the data, “considering” how it might be influenced by biopsychosocial measures determined from answers you already gave to a series of questions. The machine spits out a prognosis. The secret to your very own personal happiness.
What’s the Big Idea?
Primerlife uses an artificial intelligence engine tested by the Spanish government, on both their emergency preparedness division and healthcare system,” says Primerlife co-founder Brinkley Warren. But this is the first time the technology has been employed in a “consumer-facing way.”
The AI engine considers your genetic profile, daily physical activity, emotions, biopsychosocial self-report measurements, and level of participation in cognitive-change activities.
Developed by Francisco Palao, CEO of IActive.es, in Spain, Primerlife’s AI engine isn’t like Watson or Siri, machines that use natural language processing, but instead makes “personalized recommendations” and adapts to “the user's individual preferences over time so that it becomes more personalized the more a client uses it,” says Warren.
The idea is that you tell PrimerLife your goals and then its AI “personal life coach” measures your strengths and weaknesses in order to determine methods of motivating you to grow, and guides you through the process of “improving your well-being and quality of life,” says Warren. Or, to put it another way, Warren says this machine helps "our users achieve their ideal future, become more successful, and live a healthier more satisfying life.”
Whereas Apple’s Siri might help you manage your day-to-day tasks, PrimerLife is intended to help you manage your life. So how does it work?
Learn about Me
First you take a series of surveys with questions like "Which of the following diseases do you have?" and "Have you had success in your career?" and "Do you have sex regularly?" Your personality is charted on what Primerlife calls the Hexagon of Life, developed on the tail end of “empirically validated research” and constantly being improved. The outer ring represents optimum well-being. The inner ring represents your well-being.
And then it gets surreal.
If you’re like me and didn’t buy your first cell phone until four years ago, you probably don’t have your genome on a zip disk yet. No problem. Simply click on the link provided by Perimerlife and you’re whisked away to 23andme.com, which maps your genome using nothing more than a kit you return to them containing the biggest loogie you can muster.
Warren tells Big Think that Primerlife has just completed development of a database including information about “the effects of variations in DNA based off of peer-reviewed scientific publications” and then used to analyze your genome.
People like Me
The AI engine searches the database and compares your results to nearly a thousand others who have submitted data. Warren is quick to point out that all thousand participants found Primerlife with almost no advertising. The beta version of the website I tested found 76 people they suggested I might be interested in, though at this early phase of development, all I could see was a photo a username and an age.
Groups for Me
The 'groups' section is still very much in beta mode. I was able to create a “Media Test” group and there were a couple other test groups, including one that seems to hint at where the developers intend such groups to head: “Finding My Purpose.”
Advice for Me
In this early version of the site my advice column was rather vague. I was told to eat a mid-morning snack of "Fat free milk with apple" Calories: 230.0 Carbohydrates: 39.91613 Fat: 1.3948387 Proteins: 12.256774. It even suggested that I “Do de [sic] activity "Walk" for 87.27273 minutes.” Units of measure were not given.
Future incarnations of meal recommendations will be customized based on the user’s health needs and preferences.
If all goes according to plan, the advice, or “interventions,” will eventually be much more comprehensive.
“Our approach is to combine a user's own perspective of their personal well-being along with objective biological factors to create a hierarchical portrayal of their well-being,” says Warren. “And then offer the user personalized advice that helps them grow, achieve optimal life-satisfaction and, ultimately, exponentially increase their own health and well-being.”
The anonymous data set resulting from this project, it is hoped, will “unleash” future research on the science of well-being.
PrimerLife is currently in the process of building a “top-tier research advisory board” comprised of experts in various fields such as Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute and Dr. Martin Seligman, advocate of Positive Psychology at UPenn.
PrimerLife has just received backing by Skolkovo Foundation in Russia, but still consider themselves a Silicon Valley company. They expect other doors to open in the future, and although two of their team members are Russian, they seem to be holding out for a birth in the Bay area.
What’s the Significance?
“The bottom line is that almost everyone wants to achieve their highest life purpose and increase their well-being,” Warren explains. “People want to flourish, and PrimerLife.com helps them do it—simple as that.” And the estimated cost? About $10 a month, says Warren.
Simple as that indeed. And as exciting as it is scary. At least to the guy who didn’t get a cell-phone until four years ago.